Disney wants even more control over its content, including ESPN.
The company is currently building its own direct-to-consumer streaming service (and ending its licensing deal with Netflix) that will be Disney-branded and carry not only hundreds of films and shows from the Disney library but also Marvel and Star Wars titles. However, aside from that service, which you can read all about from here, Disney is developing an all-new ESPN streaming service.
In its first statement about the effort, Disney described it in broad terms, only confirming that the service will include a host of games from every major sports organisation in the US and purchasable add-ons for those who want to follow individual sports like baseball, hockey, and soccer. In the past few months, though, Disney has been more talkative. It's even announced a name: ESPN Plus.
ESPN Plus: What's the story so far?
- Disney acquired stake in BAMTech
- Plans to launch ESPN streaming service as a result
ESPN has operated as a division of The Walt Disney Company since 1996. We first heard about Disney's plans to create a streaming service for the sports network last year, when Disney acquired a majority stake in BAMTech, the MLB-founded video juggernaut behind many popular sports and TV streaming services. At the time, Disney said it wanted to launch a dedicated over-the-top ESPN service.
Although you can currently access ESPN's content through skinny TV streaming services like Sling TV, which allow you to purchase add-on sports packages, Disney's new ESPN streaming service would mark the first time the broadcaster has been available through an independent, multi-sport, Disney-owned service that doesn't have any licensing limitations and isn't tied to a third party like Sling TV.
ESPN Plus: How will you access it?
- Will be available in existing ESPN app
- Can access app on a range of devices
The new service won’t be a standalone app. Instead, it will live inside the existing ESPN app, which is available on a range of devices, including smartphones, game consoles, and streaming TV boxes and players.
ESPN Plus: What can you watch on it?
- Will offer live feeds of ESPN broadcasts
- Can also purchase add-ons for individual sports
First and foremost, the service might exclude SportsCenter and other programming key to the ESPN channel. That stuff may remain exclusive to cable subscribers. However, those who do pay for cable will be able to access additional content on the streaming service, including live feeds of ESPN’s cable broadcasts - after authenticating through your internet service provider, of course.
It still sounds like the service will have tonnes of sports programming on deck, though, with about 10,000 live regional, national, and international games and events a year, including from Major League Baseball, National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, Grand Slam tennis, and college sports. Disney has confirmed you can also buy add-on packages like MLB.TV, NHL.TV, and MLS Live.
So, when it launches, ESPN Plus will essentially stream ESPN live on an authenticated basis, but it will also allow you to subscribe for additional sports content, including thousands of live sporting events. Disney CEO, Bob Iger, explained during an earnings call in late 2017 that "this one app [will offer] sports fans far more than they can get on any other app, website, or channel."
ESPN Plus: How much will it cost?
- Costs $4.99 per month
- But any add-ons will cost extra
Disney's CEO, Bob Iger, said ESPN Plus will cost $4.99 per month.
ESPN Plus: When will it launch?
- Will be called ESPN Plus when it launches
- Launching sometime in spring 2018
Disney confirmed that its new streaming service will be called ESPN Plus and that it will launch in spring 2018 through a redesigned version of the ESPN app. We'll keep you posted as we learn more.
ESPN Plus: Where will it be available?
- Possible US-only launch, initially
- No word on UK availability
So far, Disney hasn't given any indication ESPN Plus will be available outside of the US. There's been no word on UK availability.